How recruiters can manage a healthcare testing programme

Once offices are again fully opened up, adjusting to Covid-19 poses challenges for recruiters. Marta Kalas offers a solution.

In a changing situation, how will you know when risks increase in your office and you need to change procedures? Will you be able to identify a new source of infection promptly? One way to find answers is to introduce regular and methodical testing.

It is important to understand that testing can only help if it is effective, and that means being part of a concerted effort with a systematic plan.

Let me share some practical steps for managing testing in your business – once offices are fully open again – and help keep staff, clients, candidates and other visitors safe.

The best advice is still to ask staff to monitor symptoms and be aware of risks that they may be exposed to. For example, are they part of a large family with most members working? Are they using public transport? An increased risk doesn’t mean they should avoid the office – when it’s safe to do so – but bear it in mind when developing your testing plan. 

Personal privacy
There are several issues to consider when setting up a testing programme. It is not simply a medical or clinical question, the personal privacy aspects are just as important. 

When designing a testing programme ensure it is:

  • Planned and documented
  • Systematic (even if you are doing random checks, you need to make it clear who is tested, when and how)
  • Actionable: you need to know what specific action you will take if certain results are found
  • Follows Public Health England (PHE) guidelines and if possible is carried out under clinical supervision. The latter may not be possible, although many occupational health physicians can provide this as a service.

The testing programme must also avoid these pitfalls:

  • Improvising/introducing the latest test available without considering the implications
  • Testing must not lead to discrimination or the perception of discrimination
  • Once the data is no longer needed it needs to be destroyed and the process documented
  • Using tests that are not approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
  • Using a system where security of data cannot be guaranteed (eg. Excel).

As you design your testing programme ask the following questions:
• What type of information will you be collecting and what action will you follow if you find it? For example, will it lead to more testing of a specific group? Might shift patterns or workflow etc. need to change?

• What other information will you need to record in order to give context to the testing? For example, this could be linked to risk factors like ethnicity or sharing a household with a person who is at higher risk.

• What type of test needs to be carried out in relation to any symptoms? If tests need repeating – at what intervals? 

• How will you manage repeated testing? How long is the information valid? 

The timing of these questions and answers as well as the related test result is important; each test is only effective for a very precise period. Testing at the wrong time means results will lose meaning. 

Recruitment agencies and in-house recruiters often have good systems. However, it is unlikely that your current recording of HR data is sufficient for this purpose, so a new system of Covid-19 testing is needed.

A dedicated testing platform to manage the process will make it much easier to track the results, know what actions to take, and ensure that everyone who needs testing is tested. 

Be open and transparent about why and how you want to manage the testing, and, if necessary, get some advice/training about sensitive communication with employees at risk.

Before the programme begins, talk to your staff about a) the reporting procedure if a staff member is found to have Covid-19; b) how testing will change or increase if a visitor or supplier reports they have Covid-19; c) what actions will be taken if a test is positive.  

With specific advice on the legal and clinical aspects of your plan, and clear and transparent procedures, recruiters can make a testing programme work smoothly.

Marta Kalas is co-founder of Thomson Screening, developers of the Thomson Covid-19 Test Manager software platform that enables testing providers to scale irrespective of where, how and what test is carried out. 

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